University of Utah Health Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion ushered in a new era for the Saturday Academies program on March 18, 2023, as it again hosted more than 100 students from across the Wasatch Front. The year has seen many changes to the program, including a change of name, the addition of lunch and transportation for students, and now the first-ever collaboration between the University of Utah College of Nursing (CON) and the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine (SOM).
In order to foster better access to health care, deliver patient-centered care, achieve health equity, and improve health outcomes for everyone, the nursing workforce must mirror the population we serve. Many K-12 students who attended Saturday Academies in March represent groups that have been historically marginalized, minoritized, or excluded from nursing.
Marla De Jong, PhD, RN, CCNS, dean of the College of Nursing, joined the group for the entire session—lending it her expertise and valuable perspective. She said that with this inaugural hosting of the Saturday Academies, “College of Nursing students demonstrated inclusion of and respect for all attendees, highlighted roles of nurses, and encouraged attendees to consider a career in nursing. In time, I hope that many attendees will apply to the University of Utah and major in nursing or another health sciences discipline.”
The collaboration was the result of months of planning by CON students Karina Pérez and Alyssa Pham along with SOM students Ryan Stoddard, Taylor Johnson, and Jasmine Banner—and culminated with the support of the nursing college leadership, including De Jong and Valerie J. Flattes, PhD, APRN, ANP-BC, associate dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion—along with 20 student mentors.
Students started their day with a light breakfast and met with CON student mentors who gave age-appropriate orientation presentations on the importance of taking vitals, patient safety, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). After pausing to take in the extensive simulation environment, attendees used stethoscopes to listen to heartbeats, performed chest compressions on state-of-the-art manikins, and examined varied heart rhythms on bedside monitors.
For some of the participating K-12 students, this was their first visit to a college campus. For nearly all, it was the first time that they visited a nursing simulation center, performed chest compressions, or used medical equipment like stethoscopes and bedside monitors. Once activities concluded, all students and volunteers sat down for a catered lunch together from Café Rio.
“Diversity within nursing cohorts and classes contributes to a rich student experience, engages students intellectually and socially, and equips them with the perspectives and skill sets needed to care for diverse patients, advance health equity, reduce health disparities, and meet the needs of our changing society,” De Jong said, highlighting the importance of this new partnership.
Flattes added, “I had a chance to talk with a couple of parents who were thrilled their children were able to come to the college for the experience. I am especially thankful to the two student coordinators of the event, Alyssa Pham and Karina Perez—who are both prelicensure students that will be graduating in May.”
This year will also be the first time a Saturday Academies session will be offered in the month of May as planning is already underway for an amazing event with the University of Utah College of Health on May 20, 2023. Julie Lucero, PhD, MPH, who is currently the college’s associate dean of equity, diversity, and inclusion said “the college is excited to collaborate with the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine on this Saturday Academy. There are many health careers that students never encounter until they are already in college. With six departments, a variety of undergraduate and graduate programs, and research programs, the College of Health is a great place for students and families to explore where in the professional health spectrum their interests fit.” Registration is currently open for the May Saturday Academies session.
These new efforts will aim to ensure that the Saturday Academies program is even more useful to students—and provides opportunities for greater collaboration across University of Utah Health. To learn more, please visit the Saturday Academies website and sign up for the MEDiversity Newsletter.
Photos taken by Vianney Alcala